Washtenaw United: Making Washtenaw County a welcoming home to immigrants
ABOUT SHRINA EADEH:
Shrina Eadeh is the Director of Resettlement Services at Jewish Family Services of Washtenaw County (JFS). She earned a Bachelor’s of Social Work from Eastern Michigan University and a Masters of Social Work from University of Michigan. Shrina has over 10 years of experience working in a variety of settings with individuals and families of diverse backgrounds. In addition to managing the refugee services programs at JFS, Shrina is also a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.
David Fair: This is 89 one WEMU. And today, we're going to talk immigration and resettlement in our community. I'm David Fair, and I'd like to welcome you to another edition of Washtenaw United. Jewish Family Services in Washtenaw County is the only resettlement agency in the county that is contracted to provide services to refugees and those with other eligible immigration statuses. And it does so not only as people arrive, but in post resettlement, so as to provide the best opportunity to move forward successfully with dignity and respect. Our guest today is Director of Resettlement Services at JFS, Shrina Eadeh. Thank you so much for making time for us today.
Shrina Eadeh: Thank you for having me.
David Fair: How significant is the immigration population in Washtenaw County?
Shrina Eadeh: It's a pretty significant population. As you know, we have our local universities which bring in, you know, an international population who come and study. And being the only resettlement agency, we have resettled thousands of individuals in our community. And that's actually the founding of our organization. It was based on refugee resettlement. When individuals from the former Soviet Union came to Ann Arbor, there were a group of volunteers in our community who said, "Hey, they need a lot of help, and we should help them." And that's how our agency got started with resettlement.
David Fair: And how diverse is that community of immigrants? Because it's certainly no longer from just the former Soviet Union.
Shrina Eadeh: It's incredibly diverse now. We resettle individuals from all over the world, from Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and, most recently, from India.
David Fair: It occurs to me we've seen such a rise in Asian hate crime, and it's not the only group of people that are suffering these kinds of incidents. Do you find that when arriving here and trying to settle in that those who are serving encounter a degree of prejudice and bias?
Shrina Eadeh: We haven't actually had a ton of that happen that we are aware of.
David Fair: Well, that's great news.
Shrina Eadeh: That is great news. Yes. But I think part of the reason why is we are in the community, and we are talking about refugee resettlement. We work with so many different populations and entities in our community, for example, and local employers and housing folks, our local government. And we're, you know, we really try to be out in our community and try to provide education and the work we do and, you know, how we help individuals in our community. So, I think that's part of the reason why, sometimes, when you have misinformation about populations out there, especially refugees and immigrants, people don't understand cultures, and all of those really important aspects. And so, we do provide education in our community, and we try to talk to all of the entities that are involved and working with refugees, all of our stakeholders, our schools, in addition to our health care providers, so that we can help decrease some of that. And so, we don't have a ton of that happening as far as, you know, we're aware of.
David Fair: I'm interested in finding out kind of how this process works. So, let's say I just arrived in the community, and I contact Jewish Family Services. How is the process going to start to help me settle, resettle, and then adapt and move forward?
Shrina Eadeh: So, we have a very specific process in how refugees come to the U.S. All of them are vetted overseas. The refugee process is actually the most heavily vetted process of, you know, immigrants who come to the U.S. And so, it's about 18 months to about a three-year process overseas, and they're vetted by all of our national security forces--so, the FBI and USCIS and all of those entities. And if they make it through the vetting process, then they are given refugee status. And so, how that process works is the whole vetting process happens. They go through medical screenings overseas to help resolve any, you know, medical issues that individuals are experiencing prior to coming to the U.S. They also receive a cultural orientation overseas to help get information about what life will be like in the U.S., so that may be a lot different than the countries that our clients are coming from. So, you know, to help decrease some of that culture shock, they receive this cultural orientation. And then, there are nine national agencies in the US, and HIAS is our national organization. And so, our State Department goes through HIAS, and we are given that particular case. And so, we know when individuals are coming to the U.S. And so, once they get information, their travel information, we go to the airport, we pick them up, and then the resettlement process starts. We start looking, you know, for housing and furniture and home goods and figuring out how we're going to provide groceries and what type of groceries we're going to provide to people. We start thinking about employment and education for the family. You know, where are they going to live? What school are they going to be enrolled in. What employment program will we enroll them in? We make sure that they apply for all the benefits they're entitled to, their Social Security cards, and all of those important features of resettlement. And then, you know, we do provide cultural orientation to our own community for our clients, so that it decreases that culture shock, and they get more information about the laws and the rules in our community, the importance about learning English, and working in all of those things, and then, obviously, how to keep themselves safe in our communities. And so, it's a big, big list of tasks that we have to do. And the majority of them, we have to complete within the first 30 days. And the program is 90 days. We have up to 90 days to complete all of these support services. And then, after the initial resettlement program, our post-resettlement services start. So, it's really hard for somebody to become completely self-sufficient by their 90th day or three months here. And so, we have these post-resettlement services that continue the work that we started in resettlement. And through post-resettlement, you know, they get jobs here. And their kids start school. And, you know, we help them figure out educational opportunities for their children. They receive case management services if people have mental health or physical health issues that they're struggling with. We have programs that'll serve that. And what we actually call wraparound services. We offer in-house. So, we have our counseling program. We have our our food pantry. And it's the only specialty food pantry in our area, which we provide culturally appropriate foods for individuals. But also, we try to meet the nutritional needs of all of our community members. So, we have gluten-free, low-sodium, nutritional items for older adults and children and personal care items. And we're actually expanding our food pantry to now include a commercial kitchen. And so, that should be done around November or December. And we'll be actually making food in our--prepared food--in our kitchen to be able to give out to our community members.
David Fair: You are listening to 89 one WEMU and our Washtenaw United guest this week is Shrina Eadeh, director of Resettlement Services at Jewish Family Services in Washtenaw County. Is the goal for many that arrive in Washtenaw County a path to citizenship?
Shrina Eadeh: It is, and that's the part of the program—helping. You know, it is our responsibility to help individuals when they arrive, apply for their green cards, and then eventually apply for citizenship. So, we have services that we provide people in our post-resettlement services from the day they arrive, the day they get citizenship, and beyond. And so, we are here for not only our refugees and immigrants in our community, but also other community members who need help as well.
David Fair: And would that include undocumented immigrants?
Shrina Eadeh: We do have services for undocumented immigrants. A lot of our services don't require immigration status, which is wonderful. And so, if anybody in the community has a need, they should call us up. And we can not only help them get enrolled in the services we offer, but we offer them a hand-up. So, if anybody needs a referral outside of our agency, we make sure that we provide them with a warm referral to anybody else in our community. And a lot of our work is knowing about the other resources in our community and making sure that, you know, we're not sending somebody to, like, a cold phone line where nobody's going to answer that phone. And so, we are part of the Barrier Busters Network. We're part of a lot of different collaboratives, including the Language Access task force in our community, to make sure that, you know, we're really connected with everybody else. And if somebody needs a service that we can't offer, you know, we are in tune to other services in our community as well.
David Fair: It strikes me that the entirety of our conversation has been on services provided to those who come and choose to live here. How underrecognized are the contributions that the immigrant community is providing us in Washtenaw County?
Shrina Eadeh: I think a lot of individuals don't realize all of the contributions that immigrants make in our community. They not only contribute to our economy, but also our culture here in Washtenaw County. We have a really rich culture that incorporates so many different people--I mean, you know, local restaurants in our area, different cultural events that we have. And so, I encourage everybody to step out of their comfort zone and participate and go eat out and, you know, talk to people to learn more about, you know, all of the people that are in our community.
David Fair: Well, I thank you for the time, the insights, and the perspective today, Shrina. Much appreciated.
Shrina Eadeh: Thank you so much for having me.
David Fair: That is Shrina Eadeh, the Director of Resettlement Services at Jewish Family Services and our guest on Washtenaw United. For more information on today's topic and to access all of the links, you'll need to find out more, visit our website at WEMU dot org. Washtenaw United is produced in partnership with the United Way of Washtenaw County, and we bring it to you every Monday. I'm David Fair, and this is 89 one WEMU FM, Ypsilanti, your community NPR station.
WEMU has partnered with the United Way of Washtenaw Countyto explore the people, organizations, and institutions creating opportunity and equity in our area. And, as part of this ongoing series, you’ll also hear from the people benefiting and growing from the investments being made in the areas of our community where there are gaps in available services. It is a community voice. It is 'Washtenaw United.'
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